US regulators have awarded AstraZeneca’s cancer immunotherapy tremelimumab Orphan Drug Designation for the treatment of malignant mesothelioma.

The prognosis for patients with this rare and aggressive cancer is very poor, with just 5% surviving for more than five years post diagnosis, and new therapies are urgently needed as the current offering is very limited. 

“Our aim is to rapidly advance the development of tremelimumab as a potential new treatment option for these patients,” said Robert Iannone, Head of Immuno-oncology, Global Medicines Development at AZ.

Tremelimumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody to which AZ picked up global rights from Pfizer in 2011.

The drug’s potential is also being assessed in combination with AZ’ anti PD-L1 immunotherapy MEDI4736 in tumour types including non-small cell lung cancer and head and neck cancer, alongside Iressa (gefitinib) in EGFR mutated NSCLC, and with MEDI6469 in solid tumours.